Battle of St. Lucia
The Battle of St. Lucia or the Battle of the Cul de Sac was a naval battle fought off the island of St. Lucia in the West Indies during the American War of Independence on 15 December 1778, between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.
On 7 September 1778, the French governor of Martinique, the marquis de Bouillé, surprised and captured the British island of Dominica. On 4 November, French Admiral Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector. comte d'Estaing sailed for the West Indies from the port of Boston. On that same day, Commodore William Hotham was dispatched from Sandy Hook, New York, to reinforce the British fleet in the West Indies. Hotham sailed with "five men of war, a bomb vessel, some frigates, and a large convoy." The convoy Hotham was escorting consisted of 59 transports carrying 5,000 British soldiers under Major General Grant. The French fleet was blown off course by a violent storm, preventing it from arriving in the Caribbean ahead of the British. Admiral Samuel Barrington, the British naval commander stationed on the Leeward Islands, joined the newly arrived Commodore Hotham on 10 December at the island of Barbados. Grant's men were not permitted to disembark and spent the next several days aboard their transports. Barrington and Hotham sailed for the island of St. Lucia on the morning of 12 December.
On the evening of 13 December and morning of 14 December, Major General James Grant, supported by additional troops under Brigadier General William Medows and Brigadier General Robert Prescott, landed at Grand Cul de Sac, St. Lucia. Grant and Prescott took control of the high ground around the bay, while Medows continued on and took Vigie the following morning (14 December). On 14 December the French fleet under d’Estaing arrived, forcing Admiral Barrington to move his ships into line of battle and forego his plan of moving the transports into Carénage Bay. Admiral Barrington had the following ships at his disposal:
|HMS Prince of Wales||Third rate||74||Admiral Samuel Barrington
Captain Benjamin Hill
|HMS Boyne||Third rate||70||Captain Herbert Sawyer|
|HMS Preston||Fourth rate||50||Commodore William Hotham
Captain Samuel Uppleby
|HMS St Albans||Third rate||64||Captain Richard Onslow|
|HMS Nonsuch||Third rate||64||Captain Walter Griffith|
|HMS Centurion||Fourth rate||50||Captain Richard Braithwaite|
|HMS Isis||Fourth rate||50||Captain John Raynor|
|HMS Venus||Fifth rate||36||Captain James Ferguson|
|HMS Aurora||Sixth rate||28||Captain James Cumming|
|HMS Ariadne||Sixth rate||20||Captain Thomas Pringle|
Admiral d'Estaing's fleet was composed of the following ships:
|Languedoc||80||Ship of the Line||Admiral d'Estaing; Boulainvilliers||38||777||875|
|Tonnant||80||Ship of the Line||Breugnon, chef; Bruyères, commandant||22||685||707|
|César||74||Ship of the Line||Broves, chef; Raymondis, commandant||713||793|
|Zélé||74||Ship of the Line||Barras||17||14||486||507|
|Hector||74||Ship of the Line||Moriès|
|Guerrier||74||Ship of the Line||Bougainville||22||400||422|
|Marseillais||74||Ship of the Line||La Poype-Vertrieux||19||3||584||606|
|Protecteur||74||Ship of the Line||Apchon||14||391||405|
|Vaillant||64||Ship of the Line||Chabert||542|
|Provence||64||Ship of the Line||Champorcin||14||408||422|
|Fantasque||64||Ship of the Line||Suffren||13||419||432|
|Sagittaire||50||Ship of the Line||Rioms|
Admiral Barrington was alerted to the presence of the French fleet by the frigate Ariadne and organised his line of battle so that Isis and his three frigates (Venus, Aurora, and Ariadne) were close to shore guarding the windward approach, and he placed his flagship, Prince of Wales, toward the leeward. Barrington in a defensive strategy placed his transports inside the bay but behind his battle line which took him the entire evening of 14 December. By 1100 hours the next day, most of the transports had been safely tucked behind his line.
At 1100 hours 15 December Admiral d’Estaing approached St. Lucia with ten ships of the line, and was fired on by one of the shore batteries. D’Estaing then moved to engage Barrington from the rear, and a “warm conflict” raged between the two fleets, with the British supported by two shore batteries. D’Estaing was repulsed but succeeded in reforming his line of battle. At 1600 hours d’Estaing renewed his assault by attacking Barrington’s centre with twelve ships of the line. Again, heavy fire was exchanged and the French were eventually repulsed for a second time.
On 16 December Admiral d’Estaing appeared to be preparing for a third assault against Admiral Barrington’s line, but then sailed away towards the windward. On the evening of 16 December d’Estaing anchored in Gros Islet Bay with "ten frigates and twelve sail of the line, &c." Admiral d’Estaing’s failure to break Barrington’s line on 15 December spelled doom for the local French garrison, which surrendered on 28 December.
- Navies and the American Revolution, 1775−1783. Robert Gardiner, ed. Chatham Publishing, 1997, p.88-91. ISBN 1-55750-623-X
- Orr, Tamra. St. Lucia. Marshall Cavendish, 2008; pp. 31. ISBN 978-0-7614-2569-4.
- Ekins, Charles. The Naval Battles of Great Britain: From the Accession of the Illustrious House of Hanover to the Throne to the Battle of Navarin. Baldwin and Cradock, 1828; p. 91.
- Ekins, p. 93.
- Ekins, pp. 91–93.
- Jaques, Tony. Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A Guide to 8,500 Battles from Antiquity Through the Twenty-first Century. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007; pp. 882. ISBN 978-0-313-33536-5.
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- Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. D. Appleton, 1900; pp. 5:109.
- Cited Rochambeau: A Commemoration by the Congress of the United States of America. DeB. Randolph Keim, ed. Washington, D.C.: 1907; pp. 230. From "Fleet of D'Estaing: Expedition of D'Estaing, 1778-1779." Xenophon Group and Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society. Updated: 4/13/2003. Accessed: 12/09/2008. <http://xenophongroup.com/mcjoynt/fleet01.htm>.
- Ekins, pp. 92–93.
- Ekins, pp. 93–94.
- Jaques, pp. 882.
- Xenophon Group This "informal association of military historians" researches and presents historical information on warfare. The group attempts to purge the "false history" that has crept into the popular consciousness by offering well-documented historical accounts.
- Expédition Particulière Commemorative Cantonment Society This organization is dedicated to documenting and commemorating the French expeditionary force (Expédition Particulière) and the overall French involvement in the American War of Independence.